Ode to “Ribolitta”: Traditional Tuscan Black Cabbage Bread Soup

Posted: February 18, 2010 in recipes
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I’m back from my trip to Italy and am glad to be home. But I already miss some of the “old country” traditional Tuscan dishes that I fell in love with over the past few days – namely “Ribolitta” (means “boil twice”) – a rustic black cabbage bread soup.

Cavalo Ner0, translated “black cabbage” also known as Dinosaur kale,  Tuscan kale, Toscano kale and Lecano kale, is a prized rare variety only available in the winter. This variety possesses a mild cabbage flavor with a sweet overtone. It is rich in both vitamin A and C and the mineral potassium and is also a good source of calcium, iron and folate.

After you purchase\pick your black cabbage, you should keep it unwashed, in a plastic bag, and in your refrigerator’s crisper for up to one week. To prepare, wash well careful to remove all dirt and pat dry. Remove the center vein as this is often difficult to chew.

I came across this recipe for Ribolitta from http://www.tuscanycuisine.com/zuppa/Soups.html and adapted it to be the closest version that I ate in Florence. Try it out and let me know what you think!


Servings: 6-8


2 cup of canned cannellini beans, drained

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow jumbo onion, chopped

1/2 tablespoon crushed dried chilies

2 vine ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

3 white potatoes, cut in small cubes

2 carrots, cut into small cubes

1 small leek both white and green parts,cut into small pieces.

3 celery sticks, cut into small pieces

3 heads of shredded Tuscan black cabbage ( if you cannot find this add more Savoy cabbage)

2 1/2 cups of shredded Savoy cabbage

2 garlic cloves, sliced

3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste


6-8 slices of day-old Tuscan bread, sliced about 1 inch


Puree three-quarter of the beans coarsely in a food processor then spoon them into a bowl and set aside. Leave the remaining beans whole and pour them into another bowl, cover and refrigerate until the next day.

Pour olive oil into a pot and heat over a medium heat. Add onions, chilies, and sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher salt. Saute for about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir in the bean puree. Let it take up the flavor for a couple of minutes and while stirring, add all the other vegetables, garlic, and thyme.

Add enough water to the pot to cover (about 2/3 quart), together with salt, and bring to a boil. Cook over the lowest possible heat for about 2 hours. Add pepper and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until the next day.

Day 2 (Here’s where the “boil twice” thingy comes in)

Heat oven to 350 F. Mix in whole beans into the soup. Slice onion very fine and arrange in a thin layer all over the surface of the soup. Put the pot in the heated oven and cook until the onion is tender. This will take about 1 hour. Remove when done and set aside.

Toast bread in the oven or over the grill and rub with the halved garlic cloves. Put the bread into individual soup bowls and ladle the soup over it. Drizzle a little oil over each bowl along with grated hard cheese (if you like) and serve. Enjoy!!!

  1. never tried dino kale, although i have to admit kale is my last favorite green, and i’ve tried it so many ways. i might whip it out for this soup, thank for sharing. i did collard greens in my meaty red spaghetti sauce last night, yum!

  2. […] of Kale from my 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life radio program. I posted a recipe that uses “Black Cabbage” (aka Kale) in a traditional Tuscan dish called Ribollita last week – you may be inspired to […]

  3. Mel says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I just came back from a 2 week trip in Italy, of which 5 days were spent in Florence. This was my favorite dish – which I had 3 times at a little restuarant around the corner from the hostel we stayed at. Can’t wait to try it out.

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